101-year-old World War II veteran “graduates” after 80-year delay in attending his ceremony

Irrespective of when, where, or why you left your journey, you always have the right to complete it. This remarkable story of a 101-year-old veteran graduating after 80 years serves as living proof of that sentiment. Meet Fred Taylor, a resident of California and a former member of the Army Air Corps Reserve during World War II.

Unfortunately, his military service prevented him from attending his graduation ceremony in 1943 at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, where he had anticipated receiving his music degree, according to a report by Good Morning America.

Recently, on May 14, Cornell College took to Facebook to share the incredible news: “Today, we have a special guest who is graduating with our Class of 2023. Eighty years ago, Fred Taylor ’43 missed his Cornell Commencement ceremony because he left to serve in WWII—flying fighter planes.

He’s now 101 years old and finishing what he started. He walked the stage to get his diploma and led the class in moving their tassels. Congratulations, Fred, and welcome back!”

Fred Taylor’s daughter, Linda Taylor, played a pivotal role in making his dream of walking alongside fellow graduates a reality.

Linda, herself a professor and well-acquainted with graduation ceremonies, gifted her father tickets to Iowa, allowing him to finally attend his long-overdue graduation. In a Cornell College news post, Fred expressed his surprise, saying, “Linda mentioned this idea a long time ago, but it was a big surprise to me that she had gone ahead and made the arrangements to do it.

So, of course, I’m surprised and excited about it.” Linda Taylor added, “You know that feeling when you give somebody you love something really special that delights them and delights you even more? It’s just going to be a super happy time, and for somebody who is closing in on 102, what are we waiting for?… Better late than never, I think!”

The time Fred Taylor spent at Cornell College had a profound impact on various aspects of his life. It was there that he completed his music degree, later earning a master’s degree in music education at Drake University and working as a music teacher until his retirement.

Additionally, it was during his senior year at Cornell that he met his future wife, Peggy Newberg. Although his father collected his diploma from the school while he was serving in the military, the graduation ceremony brought everything full circle for Taylor. “Cornell shaped the rest of my life,” he remarked.

While Taylor completed the requirements for his music degree at Cornell, he still vividly remembers the events of that special day. “Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, I and a number of my friends at Cornell joined the Army Air Corps Reserve because we’d rather be in the Air Corps than a foot soldier. The Army Reserves were activated in February of my senior year. On February 19, 1943, we had to leave and went to Jefferson Barracks in Missouri for basic training.”

Taylor was among the 13 students from the 1943 graduating class who were called to serve in the military. “Leaving Cornell College in February of my senior year really felt like an ‘incomplete’… the ceremony really ties the ribbon on it and makes me feel like now it’s complete,” Taylor shared with ABC News affiliate KCRG. “He had not been able to process/participate in commencement because of his service…

He’s an emblem of what we try to accomplish and what we hope to see in all of our students and graduates. He has, for his entire life, really been focused on supporting and helping others,” expressed Jonathan Brand, the President of Cornell College, recognizing Taylor’s remarkable journey.

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